Tag: Mormonism

The Book of Mormon: My Testimony

There has been a youtube movement called ‘The Two Minute Book of Mormon Challenge’.  This is a channel set aside for people to bear their testimonies about the Book of Mormon.

Here is the introduction on the channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B36GZ4HLx0

Someone from the site asked me to contribute and I finally was able to put my feelings into words and on to video.  It ended up being 4 minutes but I think you’ll forgive me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjEaTwnYSgE

One time I was driving with my brother and he was debating various points of doctrine with me and I said to him ‘you know when I read that book I just know its true’ and its really as simple as that.  When I read it I know its true.  I don’t need any other witness than that.  I know the covenants it teaches are real.  I know the faith and priesthood has power.  I know there was a dark ages and then truth was restored and it all comes down to my witness of The Book of Mormon.

I repeat my warning I gave of previous religious posts.  I will not post any comments that are disrespectful or unkind (and that goes for youtube too).  Have enough courtesy to understand that people feel differently about these things and maybe listen for something that could strengthen your own faith.

I hope you all have a great Sunday!  And if you have any questions, would like to meet with representatives or receive a copy of The Book of Mormon go to http://mormon.org/eng

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How to Give a Talk in Church

pulpit

This is a post has been stewing inside of me for some time.  How to give a talk in church (or any other public forum for that matter)…

Sometimes I feel in the Mormon church we are great at inspiring but not so great at the nuts and bolts of how to implement that inspiration.  For example, we teach young single adults that dating, courtship and marriage are important, but how often do we talk about etiquette on a date or what practical things we can do to prepare for a family?  Not much.

Public speaking is another example.  How is it possible in all my years of speaking in the church I have never been to one activity or lesson on the mechanics of good public speaking?  One would think there would at least be a mutual activity or enrichment lesson?  Maybe there is an assumption that everyone already knows how to do this and it is easy?  We are, after all, forced to speak publicly from primary on…

However, repetition in public speakings is helpful but couldn’t we be merely repeating the same bad things, reinforcing the same distracting tendencies?

To be clear, if I don’t get anything from sacrament meeting the fault is mine not the speaker.  I am responsible for my own spirituality but a good talk certainly can make my job easier.

In giving this advice let me further clarify that while public speaking is a strength of mine, I by no means have it all figured out; however, to the best of my ability I have came up with some tips to use the next time you are asked to give a talk:

1. Decide on 3 important points that you want to make.  This helps you plan for little time or elaborate if given a lot of time.  You can always just bare your testimony on the 3 points and sit down or you can do your full prepared talk, and perhaps have a few ‘if time’ stories on hand to include if needed.

2. Write out your talk- I know some will disagree with me on this but I do not believe the outline format suits the unseasoned speaker.  Write out your talk and include the quotes and scriptures so you don’t have to be flipping around to find things.

3. Be weary of bad introductions “The bishop assigned me this talk 2 weeks ago…”  “I am going to speak on testimony”, “Have you heard the joke about the bishop, a chicken and the RS Pres”  All such introductions are deadly.

4.  Do not ‘couple brag’.  A brief introduction may be appropriate for new couples but we don’t all need to hear about your wives fantastic cakes or how great your dog is.  Get to the doctrine.

5. Practice giving your talk.  Stand in front of the mirror and give it trying to look up every 30 seconds or so to make it feel more natural.

6. Follow the rule of 1/3rds:

a. 1/3rd of your talk should be statements of doctrine.  This includes quotes, scriptures and other resources.  For example, a talk on tithing may include Malachi 3:10

b. 1/3rd of your talk should be explanation of doctrine and how it applies to our lives.  So, you’ve stated a scripture on tithing, now you are   going to explain in your own words what the scripture and tithing mean to you.

c. 1/3rd of your talk should be personalizing the doctrine to your life.  Tell us a story on an experience with tithing from your life or ask your friends for their experience, do a poll on fb or twitter, find a story in the ensign that touches you or a scripture story you’ve always loved.  You’d be surprised how far you can get by ‘This scripture has always been special to me because….”

d. These 3 are all equally important.  If you just have data (scriptures, quotes) it will feel dry, just explanation it can drag and introduce false doctrines by accident, being too personal can be awkward or distracting.  All 3 must be there for a great talk (think about Elder Hollands or Pres Monson’s talks and you will see they follow this rule of thumb in general.

7.  For the most part, do not throw away your talk at the last minute and ‘speak by the spirit’.  Sometimes that is needed but most of the time I think it is Satan’s way of having congregations full of unprepared speakers.

8. Do not worry about offending people or making your talk apply to everyone.  While we shouldn’t be rude, I’ve heard speakers go a little overboard in the ‘we want to keep the single mothers happy’ in talks about the family.  The thoughtfulness is good but I think most people are comfortable with a little bit of doctrine on Sunday not applying to their situation.  Also, it can make a person feel more ostracized when  their ‘special circumstance is made a big to do of’.  It is typically better to find a core in the doctrine that most anyone can relate to and mention that in the course of the talk.

9.  Try to prepare your talk in advance with prayer and study.

10. Stick to the scriptures, Ensign and other church meetings.  Do not quote general authorities from personal conversations or fuzzy sources online.  There are quotes that have been attributed to multiple general authorities over the years, oftentimes stating incorrect doctrine.

11.  Finally don’t apologize for your life or talk.  I used to apologize when I’d tell stories of my mission, and I suppose those can be a bit over the top, but in general, just share and if its a good story people won’t care if its a mission story or whatever.

12.  If you say “I know the church is true” give a little bit more information to help new members understand.  “I know the church is true because I have prayed about it and gotten a witness in my heart” That is so much more powerful and easier to relate to.

13.  Finally leave your congregation with a challenge.  Something they can do like make a list of friends they haven’t spoken with, or a person they can forgive.  President Hinckley was the best at this.  Practically every conference talk he gave would end with some variation of ‘we can all do better.  Let’s go and do it!”

14. My last advice is to remember when you are quick to criticize someone’s talk, remember they aren’t being paid to do this.  It is out of the generosity of their heart and love of the gospel that gets them up there.  That alone deserves some respect.

Always remember public speaking is scary! Some fear it more than death:

(The Church has published their 10 tips for giving a talk in church.  Pretty good! https://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/12/random-sampler?lang=eng

Dr. Randy Bott giving his 4 parts to writing a talk.  This is brilliant http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2409

 

Mormonism and Pain

judaskiss

Last night I had a spirited discussion on twitter about trials.  The statement was made “In the present, we call them trials; in the future we will call them tender mercies of The Lord.” .  I took issue with the statement because trials are still trials even if they serve a noble purpose in the end.  To me calling them tender mercies from the Lord is like giving people permission to cause pain because in the end the Lord uses it to do good.  As my old seminary teacher used to say

‘Judas is not off the hook’. 

I actually heard someone argue once that rape victims should be grateful for their experience because it made them strong and turn to the Lord.  The person last night was not inferring this but isn’t it a necessary stretch of the argument that if trials are truly blessings from the Lord than when we are victimized (the worst kind of trial) it is secretly a blessing and we should be grateful for it.

No! Now, we shouldn’t be bitter and allow it to control our life but call evil, evil, call trials, trials and be grateful for the Lord helping you through the evil and the trials. Just because you are able to clean dirty clothes does not mean the dirt didn’t exist!

This goes to the question of forgiving and forgetting- a question of much debate in the church, can you really forget?  Some claim that through the atonement you can forget sins and move on.  I’d say you can forget the pain but not the event itself.  We are humans and I don’t see how you can just erase such trauma from your mind and I have about as intimate and close a relationship with Jesus Christ of anyone I know.  So far no forgetting but the pain is lessened.

In fact, I have found that those moments of pain are sometimes the most clear, the most distinct of my life.  I’ve always found it ironic that the memories of being bullied and harassed as a child are clear as day in my mind but the happy times like Christmases and family vacations are a blur.  Why is that?  Why do we remember the tough times so clearly and not the good?  I’m not sure.

In any case, I have not been able to forget my pain; nor, do I necessarily want to.  I learned a lot of hard lessons through God’s walking me through the pain.  I grew close to Him as He helped me see the higher purpose and that I was loved by Him.  Does that mean he sent down the bullies so that I would be close to Him?  Of course not!  Judas is not off the hook and neither are the bullies or rapists or whatever hurts us in this life!

Perhaps we cannot forgive and forget because time does not stand still and we can forever live with effects of even repented sin.

The reason I wanted to title this post Mormonism and Pain is I thought I might explain why some things seem to be particularly painful to Mormons compared to other Christians.  You see, we believe in an eternal growth cycle.  We believe the things we do here on this earth have eternal consequences and that a mistake now while always redeemable still can have eternal results.

For example, I met a family on my mission who years before decided that paying tithing was too hard and fallen away from the church.  Eventually they came back to full fellowship and restored their temple covenants, which was great, but it could not take away years of inactivity when they were raising their children.

In addition, the family found no suitable replacement for teaching their children right and wrong (as many who leave Mormonism are able to do quite successfully) so they were without much of a moral compass and certainly far away from the teachings of the church.  Zoom ahead to the present and the children are way off track with prison sentences and illegitimate pregnancies as examples. So, yes they came back to Jesus and His grace, which is fabulous but their eternal family could be forever damaged because of choices they had already made. They cannot after all raise their children over again. It is that eternal gravity that can make us sad.

Another example can be seen in marriage. While divorce is never a pleasant experience for anyone of any faith or persuasion, think of the added pressure for Mormons where an eternal family is being dissolved.   Even a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can be all the more devastating because for at least a moment the individuals involved could see them as part of an eternal union.  When things don’t work out its brutal because of the potential.  Of course, when they do the eternal covenants make things all the more sweet and happy but there is that darker, more morose flip side to our beliefs.

So, when you scratch your head and wonder ‘Why are they making such a big deal over this?’  Remember that for Mormons we are seeing things through a longer and larger telescope than you.  To us, we can see eternity and have it as our goal.  There is nothing more important to a Mormon than eternal families but that is not a guarantee.  Human action does affect whether we will be with our loved one’s again.  The song after all says ‘families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan’. Pain and trials are an essential part of getting there but still more weighty than just a ‘hard time that will pass by’ especially when they are the result of sins, whether our own or sins of others that can, even if repented and forgiven, have eternal ramifications.

We also believe in covenants made on earth have massive importance.  In fact, they can only be made here or via proxy.  That’s how important our behavior and life on earth is to Mormon theology.  Mortality really matters, and the behaviors of human beings can have consequences for forever which can make us feel an eternal sadness (and joy!), and the sadness is sometimes shared even by God Himself:

Moses 7: 28-33 (this doesn’t sound like a God who is glad for trials/sadness of his people)

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the aresidue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

 29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst aweep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

 30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of aearths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy bcreations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

 31 And thou hast taken aZion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, bjustice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst cweep?

 32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own ahands, and I gave unto them their bknowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his cagency;

 33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should alove one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they bhate their own blood;

btw- I’m not necessarily saying this pain is right or wrong, it just is, and so if you puzzle at why certain things are so painful for your Mormon friends this is the lens that many I know are looking through.  Just thought that might give a little empathy when you see the tears! Thanks

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/04/01/a-god-who-weeps/

Something Important, Something Stupid

So this will be short and sweet.

1. This tragedy in Connecticut is inconceivable, its unconscionable, and totally evil and disgusting.  We need to get real about our mental health in this country.  Just like we educate our youth about their veins, arteries and nerves, we need to teach them about their brain and how it can be ill/healthy.  We need to teach the most vulnerable (23-30) of signs and show treatment options.  Most importantly we need to be clear that mental health treatment is not a punishment or condemnation in any way.  It is a treatment!

If a child had the plague would we not turn that child over to proper treatment and authorities?  As a society would we not enforce that happened?  And yet if our child has a severe psychosis we do little to nothing!  It’s got to end.  Mental health is like any other kind of health, and sometimes we get sick.  I get sick, you get sick, but we get treatment.  Just something to think about.

Anyway, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected.  I can not imagine what they are going through.  All I can do is pray and hope for a better future.  Jesus declared the little children to come unto Him.  I can only imagine Him comforting the little one’s who came to him today and sending special love to their families.  It is so overwhelming.

Can we finally talk about our violent angry culture too? Sigh…

2. Now for the stupid thing.  So there has been all of this hullabaloo about wearing pants to church. Boy does it seem inconsequential now.  As an LDS blogger who has blogged about Mormon Feminism I felt I should mention something.   Here goes:

1.  I will be wearing skirt/dress to church Sunday because it is what I feel comfortable in when worshiping.   I also feel it sets my apparel apart from the rest of the week.

2. I think staging a protest for equality as one blogger said is inappropriate in sacrament meeting.  It isn’t the time or place.

3. I’m not sure exactly what they want to accomplish.  They aren’t getting the priesthood or more positions.  You can already wear pants if you want to.

4. When I worked at the temple frequently Latino women came wearing pants and no mention was made, nobody was treated differently.  I think it is a silly distinction.

5. Whether they would admit it or not even the pants wearers have social customs that inhibit their activities.  For instance, they may want to wear pants to church but would they wear a swimsuit to church?  Probably not.  We all have our own agreed upon standards for what is appropriate for certain situations and to thrust new customs upon a group of people at a religious setting, especially when people could be really grieving this week is a little cold and insensitive.  Think about your own standards of dress and how you would feel if someone else dictated a change to you in a public setting.

6.  The blogs/facebook have gotten brutal on both sides.  Some have wondered why Mormon’s can say such terrible things.  First, I’m not convinced all the people on the Mormon sites are truly Mormons.  I think some are formers or anti’s trolling around trying to make us look bad.  No proof of that but there are trolls and I don’t know what would stop them.  Second, we live in a culture where being called a bigot is about the worst thing a person can be called, so when people talk about inequality at church or women wearing pants a certain degree of defensiveness can come in.  They don’t want to be labeled a bigot and their precious views contorted and changed into something bad.  I’m not excusing their behavior just trying to explain it.

7.  I have long been a fan of Mormon feminism and so while I am not wearing pants those who want to go for it but I have a feeling you’ll be disappointed by the non-story it all is.  I would bet you’ll leave church and think ‘oh that was just like any other day at church’.

It is just clothes after all.

So there you blogging world.  Something important.  Something stupid.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/mixture-of-thoughts/

Famous Ex- Mormons

Lately I feel like I have read an inordinate number of stories about ‘famous ex-Mormons’.  These usually feature the same cast of characters from Julianne Hough to Katherine Hiegel to Amy Adams.  I feel like this is always done in an aura of condemnation-  ‘Look these beautiful people once believed and now they don’t how can it be true?’.

Rarely is it mentioned in these articles that Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of religiosity in general.   I am highly confident that a much longer list of former catholics, muslims and protestants could be collected amongst celebrities.  Perhaps these faiths are different because they can be considered active with very minimal observance and attendance but even so I’m confident the list would be just as long and dramatic.

Sometimes I feel these lists of ex-Mormon’s are meant to discredit Mitt Romney’s belief.  ‘How can he believe when all these beautiful, accomplished people don’t?’.  Couldn’t the same question be asked of all of them?  ‘How can they not believe when Mitt Romney and many other distinguished and accomplished people do believe?’.

Religion is an individual choice and the acceptance of the society at large, especially Hollywood, should have no barrings on an individuals faith and acceptance.  In fact, how sad would it be if someone believed purely because other smart and attractive people believed?  Mormonism is not a trendy lifestyle choice like say yoga or veganism to be lived for show.   Maybe you can do that for a short period of time but eventually you have to find out for yourself if it is true, and then live it, if you do.

I give most of these celebrities credit for leaving the church and then leaving it alone.  Many actually have very nice things to say about their experience with Mormonism.  Most have chosen to leave not out of extreme doctrinal differences but mostly lifestyle choices and political issues.  One website says ‘just for fun here are some famous ex-Mormons’.  I don’t see what is fun about someone choosing a religion?

There certainly wasn’t this sense of concern, amusement or scandal when President Obama chose to distance himself from his longtime pastor Reverend Wright.  This was seen by most as one man’s religious choice without any further speculations except for on the hard right.  People change religions all the time, especially in their youth, and in Hollywood where morals are challenged on a daily basis.  I just don’t get the fun or appeal of these articles?

And if we are looking at a broader history of Christianity when did defectors prove  or disprove the truthfulness of the church itself?  The celebrities or rulers during Christs’ days are the very one’s who cried for His crucifixion over the robber Barabas.  Comparatively few listened to Jesus’ messages and teachings and yet this does not have any baring on most modern Christians view of its truthfulness.  The people who did listen for the most part were simple humble fishermen and common citizens.

In fact, many would say it confirms the truths because they were challenging to live, required real change to accept?   Living the gospel of Jesus Christ has never been easy.  Why would this not be true in the modern church?  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is difficult to live because it has always been so.  It requires the whole heart because if we only give half than we only get half our potential.

The bible says “because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” .  Clearly, the Lord would rather have us stray than to feign half-hearted fellowship.  This is why it is perhaps no shock that most people when confronted with truth must choose one way to follow or another.

It makes me sad when I read about these people because I know what they are missing out on.  It truly is like selling your birthright for a mess of pottage.  I’m not going to presume to judge these stars and say they picked movie roles over God.  I do not know them so that may be far from truth but whatever the choice over truth, it will not matter in the end, what they have chosen. I have eternal covenants with my My Heavenly Father.  I know why I am here and that my life matters.  That is worth any worldly prize.

Anyway, I just thought I would let you all know that I couldn’t care less if a famous person is or isn’t Mormon.  My only care is the same I feel for any person who does not accept what I believe is true.  I yearn for all the world to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the Restored Gospel.  If someone believes and happens to be famous well good for them.  I would not have served a mission if I didn’t want to share my faith with others and earnestly want all men and women to believe it.

I respect all choices and have friends of many faiths. These friends have actually added to my own faith through their testimonies on our shared beliefs and their example of devotion to what they believe.  However,  their choices, and certainly the choices of some celebrities I don’t know, have no negative impact on my own religious life. So these lists of Ex-Mormons baffle me. Who cares? What are the people who publish them trying to achieve?

I guess as trivia it is harmless but it should have no affect on anyone’s view of the Mormon church or its teachings if some Hollywood starlet does not believe.  Millions of hard working men and women around the world have gained a witness of its truthfulness and that means much more to me than the dissenters who try and tear us down.   That said, if I was all alone I would still know the Book of Mormon is true and that God has confirmed this to me.  No one can take that from me.

There I said it! 🙂 (I repeat my earlier injunction that I will not post any negative comments about my church on this posting or any others, so don’t even bother.  If you have something constructive to say about what I have written I’d love to hear it).

I Am a Cheesy Mormon

My whole life I’ve heard things like “I love the Mormon church but hate the Mormon culture”.  What they are referring to is the cultural traditions in Utah that many times are equally popular in other places.  For example, the cliche of green jello, funeral potatoes, scrapbooking and the Osmonds.

I don’t know if it is because of the ‘Mormon Moment’ but lately I feel like anything remotely connected with the church automatically becomes lame and uncool in certain people’s eyes. For example, the recent City Creek Shopping Center is looked down on by some purely because of the church’s involvement. If it was any other investor they wouldn’t give it a second thought. Another example- Mitt Romney mentions Etch-a-sketch and all of the sudden that is lame.

Its very annoying because sometimes I just want to be a cheesy Mormon and not care. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t want to have to defend everything I do or view.   I like the culture and religion.  Not everything but more often than not I like it.  I’m done defending myself and my culture.  If you don’t like it, don’t live here.  There are plenty of other places to live.

I also do not believe there is anything more educated about being critical of one’s culture.  In fact, it is equally easy to be heedlessly critical as it is to ignorantly follow.  Most of these things do not matter in regards to faith or intellect but add a nuanced value to the quality of your life. They actually can make you a more interesting and colorful person.

So here goes- I love living in Utah, blogging, temple work, Utah symphony and opera, family home evenings, tabernacle choir, crockpots, book clubs, pinterest, acapella music, funeral potatoes, food storage, Hawaii, Polynesian Cultural Center, Brandon Flowers, journals, stay-at-home Moms, Gladys Knight, sherbet punch, service projects, frozen yogurt, eternal marriage, most Mormon authors, family history, pioneers, big families, republicans, homeschooling, Hallmark movies, David Archuleta, live theater, watching dancing like the BYU Ballroom dance, BYU Volleyball (pretty much anything associated with BYU I like),  Jimmer, general authorities, volunteering, CTR rings, Church History sites, Utah Olympics, Mitt Romney, firesides, General Conference, missionaries, and all versions of BYU.

I get excited when I stay at a Marriott hotel and see a Book of Mormon.  I smile and wave whenever I see a missionary.  I get excited when I see a Mormon has done well in business or any other field. I like that Mormon’s help each other move and are quick to bring a meal to a friend.

Some people are just critical of anything because its associated with Utah or the Church. I think that is lame. Oh well!

I am a cheesy Mormon- Deal with it!

(Btw, this is my 400th blog post.  Pretty amazing!)